Watch a rare launch of SpaceX’s massive Falcon Heavy rocket livestreamed on SpaceX’s YouTube channel.
“Nearly five years have passed since the massive Falcon Heavy rocket made its successful debut launch in February 2018,” writes Ars Technica.
“Since then, however, SpaceX’s heavy lift rocket has flown just three additional times.”
Why? It’s partly because there is simply not all that much demand for a heavy lift rocket. Another factor is that SpaceX has increased the performance of its Falcon 9 rocket so much that it can complete a lot of the missions originally manifested on the Falcon Heavy. However the main reason for the low cadence has been due to a lack of readiness of payloads for the new rocket, particularly from the US Department of Defense. But now this trickle of Falcon Heavy launches may turn into a flood. [Sunday’s launch is the first of potentially five launches this year]
SpaceX completed a hot fire test of the rocket on Tuesday, and declared that the vehicle was ready for liftoff. The rocket will use a brand new core stage, and side-mounted boosters that have flown into space one time, as side-mounted boosters on the USSF-44 Falcon Heavy mission that launched on November 1 2022.
What’s it carrying? Space.com writes:
The main payload is a military communications satellite called Continuous Broadcast Augmenting SATCOM 2, which the Falcon Heavy will send to geostationary orbit, about 22,200 miles (35,700 kilometers) above Earth. Also flying Saturday is a rideshare spacecraft called Long Duration Propulsive ESPA (LDPE)-3A, a payload adapter that can hold up to six small satellites, according to EverydayAstronaut.com. LDPE-3A will carry five Space Force payloads on USSF-67. Among them are “two operational prototypes for enhanced situational awareness and an operational prototype crypto/interface encryption payload providing secure space-to-ground communications capability,” Space Force officials said in an emailed statement on Friday….
If all goes according to plan, the two side boosters will come back to Earth shortly after liftoff on Sunday, making vertical touchdowns at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, which is next door to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The central booster will not return, instead ditching into the Atlantic Ocean….
USSF-67 is part of a busy week for SpaceX. The company also plans to launch 51 of its Starlink internet satellites to low Earth orbit atop a Falcon 9 on Thursday, January 19.